A Veteran

“Coming to UT was always a dream of mine. After four years in the Marines, I’m learning how to manage my time and do homework again.”

Brania Gonzalez

headshot brania gonzalez
Dick Wade (B.S. Engineering ’70) is accustomed to solving problems. As a civil engineer, he has successfully applied his intellect and skills to creating solutions for others, such as building, developing and managing retail commercial properties through his San Antonio-based firms Wade Construction and Wade Interests. Dick started his engineering career building roads and bridges as a U.S. Naval Civil Engineer Corps officer in Vietnam, where he spent exactly 361 days — “Believe me, you do count them,” he says. Dick’s recent gift to The University of Texas at Austin has given the veteran an opportunity to address a problem that hits close to home for him — helping other veterans through college.

A first-generation college student, Dick received plenty of encouragement from his parents. “My father, who was a World War II glider pilot, pounded home the importance of education,” he says. Money, however, was in short supply, and Dick struggled like so many students who face the rigorous dual demands of work and academic pursuits. Decades beyond his own UT graduation, Dick sought a way to save others from the same hardship by establishing the Richard L. (Dick) Wade Veterans Endowed Scholarship in Engineering. High-achieving engineering undergraduates with prior military service are eligible for this scholarship, which is awarded annually and supports the recipient through the course of a four-year degree.

collage veteran connection

Far left: Dick Wade at age 22 in Vung Tau, Vietnam. Center: The Engineering Education and Research Center on UT campus. Upper right: Dick and Brania’s first in-person greeting. Lower right: Engineering students conducting field research.

Among the many deserving students who fit the criteria for the inaugural award was Brania Gonzalez, 23, a native of Edinburg, Texas. She enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps immediately after high school and now studies petroleum engineering at UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering. Dick’s generosity is her lifeline to a return to civilian life and her academic goals.

“Coming to UT was always a dream of mine,” says Brania, who hopes to find a job within Texas’ petroleum industry after graduation. “After four years in the Marines, I’m learning how to manage my time and do homework again. Thanks to Mr. Wade, I’m able to go to school full time and focus on studying without worrying about having to work as well, like some of my buddies have had to do. I cried when I found out I got the scholarship. It felt too good to be true! I wouldn’t be here without his support.”

Brania got to thank Dick personally when they met at a UT tailgate party, where he introduced her to his family. The two veterans bonded over their shared military background and created a meaningful connection. “I was nervous about meeting the Wades,” Brania admits, “because they seemed like celebrities to me, but they were so down to earth and such nice people.”

Dick takes tremendous satisfaction in seeing his gift make such a positive impact on someone’s life and is optimistic that more people will step forward to help other student veterans in need. “I’m very, very happy with how my money is being used,” he emphasizes. “Brania is brilliant, and this is a perfect match. It’s beyond what I was hoping for.”

To learn more about establishing a scholarship for veterans at UT, contact Bruce Costner, associate director of development, at Bruce.Costner@utexas.edu.

“Brania is brilliant, and this is a perfect match. It’s beyond what I was hoping for.”


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